EXCERPT | June 7, 1965
Ascent of a King
In Ali-Liston II, the Greatest shocked the world again
While fewer than 2,500 fans were in a small auditorium in Lewiston, Maine, to see Muhammad Ali—referred to below by his former name, Cassius Clay—fight Sonny Liston in a rematch of Ali's 1964 upset, the bout was much anticipated. Writer Jim Murray chronicled what would turn out to be among the most memorable (and controversial: Did Liston take a dive?) fights of all time.
Sonny Liston hit the floor like a guy slipping on a cake of soap getting out of the bathtub. This is the second time this fight has ended with several thousand people looking at each other and asking: "What happened?"
I'll tell you what happened. Sonny Liston got the hell beat out of him is what happened. This time I was looking for it and I saw it: an old man groping his way into a speedy insolent reckless kid. He was like a guy braving a barrage of rocks. He hasn't hit Cassius Clay yet. And he never will.
I counted three times when Cassius staggered Liston. The first was when the bell echo hadn't died down yet. Cassius is an ad-lib fighter, and he thought up a beaut to get this dance under way—a right cross. Nobody ever started a heavyweight title fight with a right before. But Cassius messed up Liston's unpretty features with a crazy right that he started to throw when he left his corner. Liston should have known right then that his ploy was to find a soft place to land.
Two years ago we were saying this guy was the best heavyweight in history. Now, he's not even the best heavyweight in Lewiston. And if you think that isn't a comedown, you've never been to Lewiston.
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